Monday, February 10, 2014

Missional Movement?

There hasn't been a lot on this blog recently, but every so often something turns up that it seems important to take note of.  This latest post from Mike Breen is one such item.  He's discussing the effect of Western individualism on the missional framework. He begins this way:

Since we began experimenting with discipleship, Missional Communities, and the like in England in the 1990s, we have been partners and friends in what you might call the missional movement. It has been fantastic to see all that God has done through what we believe is a work of his Spirit in remobilizing the church for mission.

.....However, I think if we’re honest, it’s not producing the kind of church we see in the book of Acts. At worst it stirs up guilt that we’re “not doing enough,” and at best it produces people who have a vague conviction that they should be “missional” at work, at school, in the neighborhood, etc, but who don’t really know how to do it in a non-weird way, so we either end up saying something awkward or we say nothing at all.

This isn't a long blog post, but it's well worth visiting.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Like Jesus “I like Jesus – but I don’t go to church.”

Bosco Peters has a very good piece on why people stop going to church, but still call themselves Christians, over on his Liturgy blog.  He relates it to the recent Census figures on church attendance, but gives much more (including at least four Post Scripts to his original post).

Here's the opening paragraph....

OK. Anyone who has been paying attention would be concerned. I’ve seen Christian communities I care about, approximately halve in numbers of people participating in the last fifteen years or so (a period in which the country’s population grew by 20%). The NZ Census figures on religious affiliation, released this week, present a similarly sobering reflection.

Read the rest here. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our task today

The following extract is from P T Forsyth's The Cruciality of the Cross. It's the second half of a long paragraph covering pages 24/5.  I've posted the earlier part of the paragraph here if you feel this second, longer section is missing anything. However, it's this second section that's pertinent to this blog, with its focus on mission. Forsyth doesn't usually use the word mission much (although it does appear, in a form, towards the end of this extract) but it seems to me that this is precisely what he's talking about here. (I've broken it up slightly to aid reading it online.)

What is our task today? It is to take the mass of men (and not only the masses) – inert and hopeless some, others indifferent, others hostile to God – and to reconcile them with God’s holy will and righteous kingdom; but to reconcile them less with the ideal of a kingdom of God than with His way of it. They are keen enough about a kingdom which glorifies human ideals, but the trouble is about God’s ideal and God’s way, about Christ and His cross as the way as well as the goal. The task is to destroy our national and social dislike of that enthusiasm of the cross, to supplant lust by that higher ardour, to bend the strongest wills to the obedience of the holiest, and by moral regeneration to restore men both physically and socially. 
This is a tremendous task. It is the whole object of history. It is far beyond socialism. And no laws can do it, and no change of circumstances, but only Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of His work, of His holy love, His holy spirit, and His holy Church, all flowing from His holy cross. Let us not mistake the kindly fruits of the cross for the moral principle of it. The fruits will not give the principle, but the principle will give the fruits. 
And the more we are preoccupied with social righteousness so much the more we are driven to that centre where the whole righteousness of God and man found consummation, and adjustment, and a power and a career, in the saving judgement of Christ’s cross. Public liberty rest [sic] on inward freedom; and the cross alone gives moral freedom, and moral independence, to the mass of men, who were left to slavery even by the heroic moral aristocracy of stoicism. It is the cross that makes moral worth an infectious power, keeps character from being self-contained [that is, focused on self], and gives a moral guarantee of a steady social future.  The cross is the spring, not of self-possessed and individualist righteousness, but of that creative and contagious goodness which makes possible the social state. Only at the centre of the cross does the man find himself in his kind [at home amongst his fellow beings], and both in God. A creative, missionary, and social ethic springs only from religion; and it springs most from the religion which is able to clothe us with the power of the creative, loving, outgoing God.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Dave Test

I happened to check out Google + just now, and found a post from a guy called Frank Viola.  The name sounds familiar, and apparently his two blogs are regularly in the top 10 of all Christan blogs on the Web today, but I can't place him particularly. 

Anyway, he's talking about a book with the rather odd title, The Dave Test, by someone who's equally unknown to me: Frederick W Schmidt.  Even Viola admits that Schmidt is no celebrity, though the bio on Amazon shows he's no slug either, and this isn't his first book by any means.  I'll quote the bio in full:

Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. is an Episcopal Priest, Director of Spiritual Formation and Anglican Studies, and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.

Prior to his arrival at SMU, he served as Canon Educator and Director of Programs in Spirituality and Religious Education at Washington National Cathedral; as special assistant to the President and Provost of La Salle University in Philadelphia; as a Fellow of the American Council on Education; and as Dean of St. George's College, Jerusalem. In addition he as served as a lecturer in New Testament studies at Oxford University, and as a Tutor in New Testament studies at Keble College, Oxford. He has been a guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas, Dallas.

He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, including entries in Doubleday's Anchor Bible Dictionary.
He is author of A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998); The Changing Face of God (Morehouse-Continuum, 2000); When Suffering Persists (Morehouse-Continuum, 2001); Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse-Continuum, 2005); What God Wants for Your Life, Finding Answers to the Deepest Questions (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005); and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). Dr. Schmidt holds a bachelor's degree from Asbury College, the Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University.

The Dave Test - its subtitle is A Raw Look at Real Faith in Hard Times - gets its name from the author's brother, who found he had a brain tumour, and the book aims to give its readers tools on what to say and what not to say to those who are in a major crisis. Words that help, rather than hurt.  This is the main reason I'm mentioning it on this blog, because it has the potential to be of considerable help to those in ministry, especially in those difficult times when someone comes to you and says they're giving up on God, because why would God let them have a cancer in the middle of a promising career, or why would God let their son die in a senseless accident...and so on.  Read Frank Viola's review, and his commending of the book.  And check out the reviews on Amazon, where you can also read a bit of the book.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Review of Manifesto for Learning

Over on Jason Goroncy's blog, Per Crucem ad Lucem, there's a review by Kevin Ward of the book, Manifesto for Learning: the mission of the church in times of change, written by Donn [sic] Morgan. Kevin's review begins....

This is a very brief little book that at first glance does not have much relevance for the church in New Zealand. It comes out of the crisis facing theological education in the US brought about by having far too many theological schools faced with rising costs, declining student numbers and reduced financial commitment from churches. That is a challenge for theological schools in New Zealand also, as I am aware both through teaching in one and being involved at executive level with both the New Zealand and Australia New Zealand Associations of such schools. However, as I read it I realised much of what was being discussed, both in terms of challenges and suggested ways ahead, was generally true for the church in New Zealand as well as theological education.

Read the remainder of the review here...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Missional God

Last year Ross Hastings published the book, Missional God, Missional Church, Hope for re-evangelising the West.

Kevin Ward, from the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, in Dunedin, has written a very good review of the book, one that makes you want to go out and buy it straightaway- especially if you've got any interest in mission. The review appears as a guest post on Jason Goroncy's blog. 

Ross Hastings may not be a name that's familiar to you: here's the biography that appears on the Regent College website:

Ross Hastings holds a PhD in organo-metallic chemistry from Queen’s University, Kingston and a PhD in theology from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, his native country. He has a vested interest in helping the Christian church understand contemporary science and in helping the scientific community benefit from theological and philosophical scholarship. Dr. Hastings teaches in the areas of pastoral theology, the theology and spirituality of mission, ethics, and the interface between science and Trinitarian theology. He has taught chemistry at high schools in England and South Africa, and also at Trinity Western University. He has served as a senior pastor in Kingston, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; and Burnaby, British Columbia (BC). For eleven years, Dr. Hastings served in this capacity at Peace Portal Alliance Church in White Rock, BC. His theological dissertation is a comparative study of the Trinitarian theology of Jonathan Edwards and Karl Barth and is in the publication process. His first book, Missional God, Missional Church: Hope for Re-evangelizing the West, was released in 2012 with IVP Academic. Dr. Hastings serves as Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Regent College.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

We can't talk about it

An article entitled Our Young People Kill Themselves And We Can’t Say It Out Loud turned up recently on a NZ blog site called Military Models. The author's name isn't obvious from the site, and I suspect this blog post is a bit of an unusual one for them. 

The writer's main point is that the current Government policy doesn't allow suicides to be written about or reported at the time they happen, and while there is a move to change this policy it's not happening fast enough for many.  I note on Twitter that there's been a good deal of discussion about this recently, initiated to a great extent by SPINZ (Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand).

One of the comments relating to the article says:
What hits me most about this is not the hypocrit [sic] way of the officials, it is the fact that so many kids apparently cannot stand their life and go to this extreme. What is wrong in your country?
Apparently we have a very wrong concept of New Zealand here in Europe where for many it is a very desirable place to be. Maybe that is Peter Jackson´s fault…
There is a lot of pressure on kids everywhere in the western world today, but this sounds alarming.
Start by calling things by their name,but then go and find the root of this disease.

We know some of the issues - a lack of a spiritual base is one of them - but there is a good deal of work to be done to reduce the horrendous toll suicide takes on the lives of young people.